Misc.

Why Representation is Important

Hi, readers! So I have a post that is a little bit different today, and it involves a little explaining too. If you didn’t know, I took a class called AP English Language and Composition (not the important part) where I wrote a lot of essays—from analysis to self-reflections, we wrote it all.

This essay I’m about to show you is, also, a little different from what we wrote in class. My teacher wanted us to submit these essays to a contest where the winner received a sum of money for scholarship.

The prompt was, essentially, write a letter to an author who inspired us, and explain their impact. Now, being a reader myself, I could count off multiple authors to write. But considering my natural competitiveness, I wanted to stand out. So I wrote about a topic that has been on my mind pretty often in the past year: asexuality. (I mean, what else?)

I hate to break the news, but I didn’t win the contest. In fact, I didn’t even advance to the second round like a few of my fellow students. At the time, I was pretty bummed. (Also not the point.) However, I still really like my essay, so I thought I’d share it here. At least someone will read it.

The author I picked was Kathryn Ormsbee, author of Tash Hearts Tolstoy. I may have mentioned it before on my blog. . .*insert my review and general constant raving about this book*

And yes, another post about asexuality, literally no one is surprised 🙂

I have edited it since my first draft, but the flow of it is pretty much the same.

Enjoy!

Dear Kathryn Ormsbee,

I am not quite sure when my love of writing began, and the same goes for my love for reading. As long as I have been alive, they have been an inseparable piece of me.

Reading has shaped the person I am; my thoughts, my actions, my opinions—all influenced by the books I have read, as if I had absorbed them like a sponge, soaking up every word inside of me. The greatest thing about reading were the new perspectives I had picked up in these books.

I had grown up in a sheltered, homogenous town. Everyone around me held the same opinions, and reading gave me the kind of escape I desperately craved. For most of my life, I lived vicariously through the minds of fictional people.

I read just about anything—science fiction, fantasy, realistic fiction, and more. No matter which genre it was, there always seemed to be romance. Even if it was not the focus of the story, love was never too far away. Every novel described what it felt like to fall in love: the staccato pounding of a heartbeat, instinctive desire for touch and affection, and the devastation of a heartache when it was all over. While I never failed to absorb what the characters felt, I had never truly related to that heart-stopping rush of emotions these authors described so vividly.

Something seemed off to me. Something that dug deeper than the relationships depicted in the novels I read.

Why did everyone feel that allegedly universal rush of affection for someone, and I did not? Was there something wrong with me?

This made me dig even deeper into my life, and the internet forums. And then, like a shining beacon gleaming for weary sailors, I found the term asexual.

No, no, not like plants. Or like those funny creatures at the bottom of the ocean.

But real life asexual.

I had never seen asexual representation in mainstream media until I found your novel, Tash Hearts Tolstoy. For all my life I knew the word asexual, but it only seemed to apply to biology, and definitely not a sexual orientation—and definitely not me.

But as I began to unravel everything I knew about myself, asexuality seemed to reflect my entire life. The far flung crushes that lasted only a few days. My admiration for fictional boys as opposed to real ones. Imagining a future focused on my passion for writing, and never marriage or children. What external forces kept this revelation from me for so long?

Like every queer teen, I spent my early years lost and confused. In a society where LGBTQ+ voices are minor and far between, proper representation for asexuals is practically nonexistent. The main characters never failed to end up with their soulmate, and the ones who didn’t. . .Well, they weren’t the main characters.

However, Tash was different. She gave me the strength to realize that asexuals are more than just their stereotypes. Not all of us are inherently cold-hearted and indifferent, or incapable of any kind of love. We have goals, passions, and aspirations. We love our friends and family. We are the same as everyone else.

We are real people, too.

I discovered your book in the spring of 2017, one of the most decisive times in my life, when I was discovering my own romantic and sexual orientation. We may differ a little, as Tash is romantic asexual and I’m aromantic asexual, but her feelings and unique experience expressed on paper spoke to me like nothing had before. When I picked up your book, I didn’t realize how significant Tash would become during the time I was finding myself, and every day since then.

It is extraordinary that someone like Tash could be a main character. In a place where romance is always the goal, Tash’s narrative is instead focused on her life; growing and developing as a person. She faces everyday situations—from family conflicts to college struggles to finding her voice online. Asexuality is just a fraction of her identity. It doesn’t define her. Nor does it define me. At the end of the day, it is only a small part that makes up the rest of me.

Like my love for reading and writing, my orientation is a part of me that cannot be taken away. It was always there—I just needed the perfect push for all of the puzzle pieces to collide together in my mind. Forward to months later, and I could not be happier now that I know I discovered that uncertain part of me. As Tash said, “If you want a chance at being happy, exist.” Because if she can be happy, so can I.

Jill S. 


Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed my mini piece!

xoxo,

Jill

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4 thoughts on “Why Representation is Important

  1. I love your essay Jill! I’m sorry you didn’t win. 😦 I actually just read Tash Hearts Tolstoy earlier this month and I loved it! You’re pretty much the reason why I read it, since you rave about it so much, lol. Are you going to share this with Kathryn Ormsbee? I bet she would love to read it.

    Like

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